Have you heard of the Chilcotin wilderness region of British Columbia? No? Even most Canadians don’t know of it, so you’re not alone.
The Chilcotin is 32 million acres of wilderness with 1,000 hearty residents (barely one for every 50 sq. miles). Within the Chilcotin is the Chilko Valley.
And it could just be one of the most special places you’ve never heard of.
Picture it – five million acres of pristine wilderness.
Add to that snow-capped mountains with 10,000-year-old glaciers that feed blue rivers so pure, all locals drink from them.
Now throw in the highest and largest freshwater lake in Canada – Chilko Lake. It’s a “55-mile long, 1,000-foot deep, clear-as-truth, miracle of glacial run-off,” says Eat Pray Love author, Elizabeth Gilbert, in a Travel + Leisure article on British Columbia. (Sorry Lake Tahoe, but you look a little like a mud puddle in comparison.)
Then think of a river – the Chilko River, which flows from Chilko Lake – with world-class fly fishing and top white-water rafting. In the fall, a million sockeye salmon journey up the river to spawn, and dozens of grizzly bears come to its banks to dine before winter.
Surround all this with millions of aspens that, in autumn, turn fiery orange and red colors.
Here in this magnificent wilderness tract is where you find the luxury estate called the Chilko Experience Wilderness Resort.
Chilko Experience Wilderness Resort
Owned by hosts Phil and Anne Huston, the $10 million estate offers accommodations for 12 guests in six log and timber homes.
Stays are all-inclusive. At the Chilko Experience Wilderness Resort, chef-prepared meals are included, along with an open bar and all guided activities.
Think upscale “all-inclusive” – the food, accommodations and service are truly exquisite at some all-inclusive lodgings. We know! Having stayed at several fabulous all-inclusive places in the past few years – like Mnemba Island Lodge in Zanzibar, where Bill and Melinda Gates have vacationed, and more recently at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico – “all-inclusive” can have a true luxury meaning.
If you’re a died-in-the-wool urbanite, this 25-acre wilderness resort will be a complete departure from your life in the fast lane.
Forget dealing with commuter traffic and irate bosses. You wake up instead to days of birsdong, hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing – even grizzly bear viewing – where you won’t bump into another soul.
Then when your day’s adventures are over, you go back to “roughing it” at the “Four Seasons” (as one guest has called the Chilko Experience).
Phil believes sleeping in a tent is over-rated. “I enjoy my wilderness adventures in four- to eight-hour increments,” he says. “Then I like returning to a hot shower, a soft bed, a good drink, a chef prepared meal and interesting company.” Sounds like us!
Phil adds that the Chilko Experience excels at what it does because of what it’s not – a lodge. “We are an estate and think and operate like one, and that’s the experience we provide,” says Phil. “Most lodges host clients in rooms and are run by managers. Estates host friends in private homes and are operated by owners. There’s a big difference.” Check out what guests say on TripAdvisor, and you’ll get the idea.
About those log and timber homes…
The cabins, er, homes, you stay in have their own story to tell.
Phil first fell in love with the Chilcotin in the late 70’s when he discovered the region on a trip to Alaska.
Some 20 years later, he returned and bought an old guest ranch for his family to enjoy as a summer residence. That got him hooked on nature, and he and Anne hired Pioneer Log Homes of B.C. to build an estate for their family and friends to enjoy.
Pioneer happens to be world-renowned as a log home builder – even shipping log homes to the president of Kazakhstan! The master logsmiths and artisans at Pioneer are now TV stars on Canada’s top-rated reality show, Timber Kings. It’s in its third season and airs in over 60 countries.
But back to the Chilko Experience Wilderness Resort… Five years after Pioneer started work, the estate was complete.
The result is three log and three timber-frame homes, hand-crafted with rustic luxury finishes like log beams, denim pine, slate floors and steel roofs.
They range from the 4,000 sq. ft. “Main House” with three guest rooms (including a master suite with a canopy bed made from 600-year-old juniper logs) to “Annie’s Tea House,” a one-bedroom log home ideal for a couple.
Anne, who has been an antique collector and dealer for over thirty years, decorated all the homes with art works, antiques and high-end furnishings from her warehouse of treasures collected over the years.
As well, the property comes with a fully-equipped gym complete with a climbing wall, a commercial greenhouse, staff quarters, two workshops, a six-bay garage and a 48-panel, 12-KW solar system that provides 98% of the power consumed at the facility.
Now you want to know more about going wild in the outdoors, right? (And we haven’t forgotten about those grizzly bears.)
“Exploring the length of Chilko Lake on a warm sunny day by cabin cruiser is unforgettable,” says Phil. “We stop at points of interest, test the fishing and enjoy a picnic lunch.”
Or you can chase eagles on a thrilling jetboat ride on the Chilko River, past steep canyon walls and grasslands with deer.
How about horseback trail riding? Riding through fields of wildflowers to a hidden mountain-top fossil bed takes a full day, but is well worth the effort.
Chilko also has 500 miles of backwoods to explore by ATVs – probably the favorite guest activity.
And then there’s the fishing. Fancy catching plump, healthy rainbow trout? You got it.
Other water activities include kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding and swimming.
And if you want to learn how to fell timber like a lumberjack, shoot a rifle like Annie Oakley or throw an axe like a Viking warrior, Phil and his team can help you with that.
“Real hands-on, laugh-your-tail-off fun is what we do,” says Phil. “Boots on the ground, paddles in the water, fish on the line, sights seen by few – that’s what the Chilko Experience is all about.”
Details for booking the Chilko Experience
The resort is 150 air miles directly north of Vancouver. “We are 200 miles from the nearest grocery store and cell tower, 50 miles from a post office and 40 miles off the power grid,” says Phil. “But at night you can touch the stars.”
How to get there
- Option 1: Fly to Vancouver, B.C., Canada and take a 60-minute charter flight directly to Chilko. Land transportation to Chilko Experience is provided.
- Option 2: Fly to Vancouver, B.C., Canada, then to Williams Lake. Land transportation from Williams Lake to the Chilko Experience is 3 hours by vehicle. National is the only vehicle rental agency at the Williams Lake airport.
- Option 3: Fly to Vancouver, B.C., Canada, then if you have time, the 10-hour drive from Vancouver to Chilko – which journeys through the Fraser River Canyon, Cariboo and Chilcotin regions – is one of the most scenic in B.C. (The downside is 2 days of travel time from most origins.)
2016 Chilko Experience all-inclusive rates start at $1,450 USD p.p. for 3 nights (4 days) between May 29 and June 25. From June 25 through summer and into September, rates start at $2,350 USD p.p. Ask about family and group rates.
Contact the Chilko Experience Wilderness Resort
Disclosure: This post has been brought to you in partnership with the Chilko Experience. We haven’t visited the Chilcotin region, but we have explored other wilderness areas in our province (like Knight Inlet, renowned for its grizzly bear watching; the wild west coast of Vancouver Island with its remote beaches and storm watching in winter; and the mountains near Pemberton with great hiking trails) – and we can tell you these are pretty special. So we’re confident that the Chilcotin, combined with the Chilko Experience Wilderness Resort, would satisfy any craving for remote wilderness adventure rewarded by a dollop of luxury.
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We’re Janice and George Mucalov, professional award-winning travel writers, sharing tales of luxury travel with a twist of adventure.